After Sauce Gardner established himself as one of the top cornerbacks in the entire NFL in only his rookie season, it was made clear that it is more than possible for players to come into the league and perform at an extremely high level as soon as they hit the pros. While it will be very difficult for any of the rookies in the 2023 season to match exactly what Gardner achieved last year, there are three first-year cornerbacks that could make an enormous impact in the 2023 season.
Arguably the top rookie cornerback coming into the 2023 season is Christian Gonzalez. Gonzalez was selected by the New England Patriots with the 17th overall pick in the 2023 draft. During his time in college, he spent two years with the Colorado Buffalos before joining the Oregon Ducks in his final season.
In his junior year at Oregon, he recorded 50 tackles, one tackle for loss, four interceptions, and seven passes defender. He proved himself as one of the top prospects in this year’s draft in man coverage. He will be an incredible fit in the Patriots’ defensive scheme, and he could end up finishing the season as the best corner on New England’s roster.
Devon Witherspoon was the first cornerback taken in this year’s draft. He was selected by the Seattle Seahawks with the 7th overall pick. Last season, the Seahawks shocked the NFL world and put together a playoff run. They were an incredibly well-balanced team and their younger players took a big step up.
Coming off of an incredible 2022 draft, all signs point to the 2023 class being another strong one for Seattle. In his final season with the Illinois Fighting Illini, he recorded 41 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, and fourteen passes defended. Witherspoon is coming into a very young and talented defensive core with the Seahawks. There is a strong chance that he will be able to immediately contribute and be a top performer in the 2023 season.
Joey Porter Jr. was selected with the first pick of the second round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite the Steelers struggling on the offensive end in the 2022 season, their defense was very strong and will continue to be the strongest part of Pittsburgh’s roster.
Porter Jr. spent four seasons with the Penn State Nittley Lions during his college career. In his final season with the team, he recorded 27 tackles and 11 passes defended. While those numbers do not pop off of the stat sheet, this comes as a result of opposing cornerbacks refusing to throw the ball Porter Jr.’s way.
With the Steelers being a team that does a great job of developing their players, especially on the defensive side of the ball, Porter Jr. will likely grow into a premier corner.
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